Using the Theory of Marginal Gains to Improve your Sales Volume


In 2002, Sir Dave Brailsford became head of the British Cycling team. Back then, the team was under-performing at a dramatic level. In the 76 year history of British Cycling prior to Sir Dave taking over, they only achieved one gold medal.

I don’t care how you look at it or how to rationalize that – it’s not a good performance history.

6 years later, at the Beijing Olympics, the British Cycling team captured 7 out of the 10 available gold medals.

Was the team just amazingly better? Was it a result of a state-sponsored push towards better cycling? Did they incentive the cyclists and bribe them with amazing gifts if they won?


The new coach, Sir Dave Brailsford, applied a simple improvement trick that he learned during his time studying for his MBA. This “theory of marginal gains” basically states that small, incremental gains in each element of a sport or industry will aggregate together and lead to significantly positive results.

He took that lesson and applied it to cycling. He broke down the entire process of cycling to the ridiculously small levels, everything from pedal technique to simple aerodynamics. He sought to improve each element by only 1%. The way he rationalized it, a 1% gain in each small category will come together int he big picture and lead to massive improvements.

Clearly, he was correct.

How can we, as salespeople who are always looking to improve our sales volume, apply the same principle to what we do? After all, how do you improve something by 1%? Clearly, what we have to do is to pick measurable traits that can be quantified and counted.


One More Sales Call

The obvious one here is to simply perform one more sales call. If you are on the phone and are making calls to customers, one more at the end of day is all that’s needed. If you’re in outside sales and knocking on doors all day, it’s the matter of one more stop before you head home. This one is the most easy to grasp, but sometimes, it’s the most difficult to actually accomplish, especially after a day of getting beat up and torn down by customers.

However, one more call, even if it feels like you are constantly getting a “no” thrown at you will collectively add up and get you one closer to that big sale that you have been dreaming about.

Improve Responsiveness Time

Sometimes, it can be difficult to respond to a customer inquiry in a timely manner, especially if you are slammed with sales and sales calls. However, improving your response time to customers can be crucial. Think about this: how many times have you submitted a question via email or a phone message and waited a seemingly infinite amount of time for a response? In our current world, we are used to instant gratification and expect to have our needs met instantly.

The longer that a customer waits, the more frustrated they will become.

Take the time to measure your response rate to the customer questions and then aim to improve it. 1% is obviously the point here, but a greater responsiveness time is definitely helpful, too. Commit to improving it. You will come to find that you’ll have happier customers and will actually generate better word-of-mouth leads!

Spend 1% of Your Day to Researching new Sales Tactics

It’s still a small thing that you can do and will lead to huge rewards. Think about it – if you work a standard 8 hour workday is 4.8 minutes. There are a TON of videos on Youtube that are less than 5 minutes that offer great sales lessons and advice. Watching one of those videos every day can lead to an increased knowledge of sales. It will add tools to your sales kit that will help you become hugely successful.


Commit to Remembering one more Benefit about your Product

You might have the best product out there. It could solve all the world’s problems. Unless you effectively communicate this to the customer as to why it benefits them individually, you’ll fall flat. If you commit to remembering just one more “What’s in it for Me” about your product or service, you’ll come to find that you might discover a hidden desire from your customer that you never knew existed.

Ask One more Discovery Question

Discovery questions are the key to any successful sales call. The worst thing is when you get to your pitch and realize that you have not done enough discovery and have nothing to work from in terms of customer need. Next time you do a sales call, count how many discovery questions that you do. Commit yourself to doing one more. Just like above, you never know if you’ll uncover a hidden need that you never knew existed.

 Improving your sales pitch by 1% in little, broken down elements can really be a huge benefit to you and will aggregate to huge returns when compounded. Next sales call you go on, try this out!



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Author: Jason Karaman

Hello! I’m a marketing, sales, and customer service author, blogger and doer. I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry with my wife. I enjoy reading, writing, hiking, kayaking, and all things beach. For media inquiries, send an email to

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